Qantas unveiled new uniforms for their pilots in April, and the new look with its associated guidelines came into effect today. While people seem to like the design of the uniform as a whole, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that some are raising concerns over the strict uniform guidelines.
Under the new rules, pilots will have to wear their jackets on their commutes to the aircraft unless the temperature is 27°C (80°F) or higher. Uniformed pilots are also now banned from using a backpack or rucksack, chew gum or drink alcohol, or smoke in view of the public. The uniform must be buttoned up and pilots must wear their hats when walking through an airport terminal.
The new uniform was (frankly surprisingly) the first time Qantas had designed gender-specific uniforms for pilots. To accompany the uniform, Qantas has issued a list of “Wear It Right” guidelines for crew members. For instance, pilots cannot wear visible facial jewelry, like nose, eyebrows, tongues, or mouth piercings. Male pilots are not allowed to sport earrings, and female pilots can only wear “plain round pearl, silver, gold or diamond studs.”
There are also strict limits on facial hairs. Beards have long been banned at Qantas and other airlines, because they may prevent a good seal with the oxygen mask. But male pilots can now only have mustaches that will keep “the outline of the upper lip…clearly be visible,” and their hair cannot touch the eyebrows or shirt collars. This means trucker ‘stache and handlebars are prohibited. Female pilots are told that their hair should be cut above the shoulder, and fringes should rest above the eyes. (It’s like me in secondary school in Hong Kong again…with weekly uniform and hair inspections.)
Some pilots find these new guidelines unnecessary. Nathan Safe, President of Australian and International Pilots Association, said, “they are obviously trying to align it with the practice of a lot of other airlines.” There is some truth to his statement. United, for example, have very similar rules regarding facial/ear jewelry and facial hair in place for flight attendants under their appearance standards. However, flight attendants are much more often customer facing, which might warrant a separate set of considerations.
Some Qantas pilots also raised concerns over design details of the uniform. For instance, the initial design featured wings made of fabric, and smaller epaulettes. The airline has since modified the uniform after hearing employee complaints, by adding metal wings and larger epaulettes. The white hats, however, are here to stay.
Some pilots think the new uniform demeans their image, saying “they don’t call it a uniform, they call it a costume. Everyone has got the sh**s that they are trying to make us wear this stuff.” Qantas had white hats as part of a pilot’s uniform between 1935 and 1974.